Jemma Slavin, Regional Director Midlands, South West and Wales
Why did you decide to become a family lawyer?
I think because I’m generally nosy but joking aside, I was attracted by the variety of the role and the constant learning opportunities it presented.
What have been your most memorable cases so far and why?
There are so many memorable cases with obscure and crazy facts usually involving people behaving badly like a client who decided to sew prawns into the curtains being retained by the husband as an act of revenge and wanted me to defend her actions in correspondence when the husband found out; or a senior Police Officer husband who refused to vacate the family home but when forced to leave, ran up and down the street naked until he was eventually arrested by officers from his own force; or the husband who denied accusations of non-disclosure until we discovered he had purchased a yacht, called it the “Never Never” and posted pictures of himself posing proudly on deck on Facebook.
However, I think my most memorable case is also the biggest case of my career. I acted for wife. There were 3 respondents; the husband, the husband’s father and the trustee of a Liechenstein Stiftung who refused to submit to jurisdiction. The case involved “Immerman” issues, section 37 applications, a 10-day fact finding and a 17 day final hearing in the High Court. The asset base was c.£100 million, they owned companies all over the world, property in all sorts of interesting places and a valuable art collection. The case was fascinating and what I didn’t know about modernist art or inheritance tax in Sweden by the end of the case was not worth knowing. To complicate matters, the husband was also named in the “Panama papers” helpfully leaked before the final hearing.
The parties were all found to be liars at final hearing and the husband accused of attempting to bully the court with his aggressive approach. Despite costs exceeding £1.2million, and the parties battling for blood, they are still to this day living together in the family home and despite the Judge finding in husband’s favour, he spent a year following the final hearing offering to provide the wife with a more favourable award.
The case gave me 2 years that I will never forget but it also taught me a valuable lesson about people and relationships – you never really know what’s going on and some people thrive off a toxic existence.
What 3 qualities do you think every family lawyer needs?
2) High emotional intelligence
3) Good communication skills
What advice would you give to a trainee who is thinking about specialising in family law?
Get some work experience to make sure it’s right for you and there is never a stupid question so don’t be afraid to ask away.
Which part of your job do you enjoy or dislike most and why?
I love the people side of my role and am always inspired and humbled by the amazing lawyers I have the privilege of working with.
What would you do if you weren’t a lawyer?
On a bad day, I often threaten to go and work in retail but if I wasn’t a lawyer I would have been a meteorologist.
How do you relax?
I sing, spend time with friends and family and love nothing more than a good walk on the beach in Tenby, where I am from, with our dog Louis. It’s my happy place and where I feel most at ease.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to travel back in time to visit lost loved ones.